Abd-el-latif

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Abdallatif, Abd-el-latif or Abd-Ul-Latif (1162-1231), a celebrated physician and traveller, and one of the most voluminous writers of the East, was born at Baghdad.

An interesting memoir of Abdallatif, written by himself, has been preserved with additions by ibn Abu-Osaiba (Ibn abi Usaibia), a contemporary. From that work we learn that the higher education of the youth of Bagdad consisted principally in a minute and careful study of the rules and principles of grammar, and in their committing to memory the whole of the Qur'an, a treatise or two on philology and jurisprudence, and the choicest Arabian poetry.

After attaining to great proficiency in that kind of learning, Abdallatif applied himself to natural philosophy and medicine. To enjoy the society of the learned, he went first to Mosul (1189), and afterwards to Damascus. With letters of recommendation from Saladin's vizier, he visited Egypt, where he realized his wish to converse with Maimonides, the Eagle of the Doctors.

He afterwards formed one of the circles of learned men whom Saladin gathered around him at Jerusalem. He taught medicine and philosophy at Cairo and at Damascus for a number of years, and afterwards, for a shorter period, at Aleppo.

His love of travel led him to visit different parts of Armenia and Asia Minor in his old age. Also, he was setting out on a pilgrimage to Mecca when he died at Baghdad.

Abdallatif was undoubtedly a man of great knowledge and of an inquisitive and penetrating mind. Of the numerous works (mostly on medicine) which Osaiba ascribes to him, one only, his graphic and detailed Account of Egypt (in two parts), appears to be known in Europe. The manuscript, discovered by Edward Pococke the Orientalist, and preserved in the Bodleian Library, contains a vivid description of a famine caused, during the author's residence in Egypt, by the Nile failing to overflow its banks. It was translated into Latin by Professor White of Oxford in 1800, and into French, with valuable notes, by De Sacy in 1810.

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